Things I wish I’d known before I had my first baby
You may have seen that I’ve set myself a challenge to create 31 new blog posts. I had this wonderful vision of writing a new blog post every day but it’s taken me an entire week to get this one live!
So I guess lesson number one should be that you don’t get a lot done with a baby and young children around!
I would love to write a new post every day but I’m also being kind to myself during this crazy time (if you’re reading this in the future – we’re just starting week 5 of isolation due to Covid-19).
Sam is still working Monday-Friday, which is amazing and we’re so pleased he’s got a couple of weeks work! But it means I’m at home on my own with three children for the majority of the time and it isn’t easy. I’d usually take them to the zoo, to the beach, the park, for a picnic, to a petting farm, to a castle….anywhere to get out the house for a few hours and run off some energy! Obviously we can’t do any of those things and most of my energy is spent keeping them busy.
And then in the evenings I am being kind to myself. I go for a long walk to have some peace, fresh air and exercise. I’m reading a lot and watching a lot of Netflix too and trying to distract myself from the news.
Anyway, back to today’s post.
I was asked to write a post about what it’s like to become a mum for the first time. And I did write this up in my notepad and then George played a game of hide and seek with my notepad and it appears to have disappeared forever.
So rather than re-write that whole post (because there’s a small chance that notepad will reappear and I’ll be able to share that post!) I thought I’d share some things I wish I’d known about motherhood before I had my first baby.
No one is judging you
It took me a while to realise that no one else cared what I was doing as a new mum.
I hear a lot of new mums talking about how they’re criticised for the decisions they’re making, and I did the same myself. But when I look back I can see that people weren’t really criticising or judging, people were just offering their opinion! But it was an opinion on a topic I was so uncertain and nervous about that I instantly got my back up and assumed they were judging me.
When someone asks, ‘How are you feeding your baby?’ they’re not asking so they can judge your choice of breastfeeding or formula feeding, they’re just interested. They probably want to talk about their own feeding experience or offer advice and reassurance.
When someone asks, ‘Is she walking yet?’ it’s not so they can say, ‘Oooo they really should be walking by now!’ They’re just interested and want to make conversation!
When they say, ‘How does he sleep?’ it’s not so they can rub your nose in it about their perfect sleeper who slept through the night from three days old and rarely wakes before 8am!
Other touchy subjects are:
- If you’re going back to work or staying home
- If your baby is in a routine
- If you plan to have more babies
- If you use disposable nappies or reusable nappies
- If you’ll send them to nursery to keep them at home
I’d say that 95% of the time, if someone asks you about these topics, they’re not asking so they judge!
OK, maybe there are some judgy parents out there and you’ll find a lot of them hidden behind avatars on the internet. Ignore those internet trolls and remember there’s a ‘Block’ button on all social media channels for a reason! And if you do come across a judgy mum, she’s probably really insecure in her own parenting abilities and that’s why she’s projecting that fear onto you. Now that I’ve got three children and I know a lot of mums, I can honestly say that not one of the parents I’m friends with would judge another parent for doing something differently but they would always offer help and support if they could. Even if it’s just a friendly comment or a smile that says, ‘Yeah, we’ve all been there and, don’t worry, that stage doesn’t last long!’
Because we have all been there and it is hard and no one wants to see another parent struggling.
The early days can be lonely
It didn’t ever cross my mind that I’d feel lonely when my new baby arrived. I’d always have a little buddy by my side to keep me company, right?
Yes, but it’s a little buddy who doesn’t talk and in those first few weeks they don’t really even communicate.
It can be hard to get out of the house between the frequent feeds, the nappy changes and packing all the stuff you want to bring with you…so you end up barely going out. You’re running 30 minutes late for the baby group that only lasts 45 minutes so you decide to ditch it. Your baby hasn’t napped all day and falls asleep just as you’re leaving to go out and meet a friend for coffee…so you call her and cancel. You start doing your shopping online so you’re not going out to pick bits up and you’re tired so you stop making an effort with friends.
It’s so easy to do and, don’t worry, it isn’t like that for long. Keep reading for a way to not feel lonely…
Baby groups will save your sanity
My heart goes out to the new mums out there who are unable to go to baby groups due to Covid-19.
When I had George I barely went to any baby groups. I tried a few but I didn’t feel like I fit in. I loved being a mum but I didn’t want to sit around talking about baby poo and weaning tips.
But now I know this ‘new mum chat’ is just the introduction of a new mum friendship. You don’t have anything else in common so you all just chat about your babies for a few weeks. And then as you get to know each other you realise you do have a lot in common and the conversations progress from baby poo!
You have to stick with it. Go to these groups for at least 5-6 weeks before you give up on them because you won’t instantly make friends during a 45 minute group, especially if you spend half that time singing songs and playing with baby toys.
One of the best things about meeting other mums is realising that everyone is doing it differently and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Not everyone follows the suggested baby routines and every baby does things in their own time.
And if you’re looking for like-minded mums, look out for groups you’re genuinely going to have fun at. I’m quite an active, outdoorsy mum so I’ve found baby fitness classes a great place to make friends – especially the ones they do out in the park.
You will have ‘mum instincts’
I remember asking questions like, ‘How will I know when my baby is tired?’ or ‘How will I know when he’s hungry’.
And people would always reply with a dismissive, ‘Oh don’t worry, you’ll know. Just trust your instincts.’
And this would infuriate me because I wanted a solid answer. But it also scared me because what if I didn’t have any ‘mum instincts’!? I was sure I wouldn’t have them!
But it’s true, there are certain things you just know. You spend all your time with your baby and you know them better than anyone else does. You instinctively know what they want and you learn to listen to their cries so you know what they’re asking for.
You will long for your pre-baby life
Sometimes, just sometimes, I’d love to go back to the child-free life I have five years ago. When I had no one else to worry about but myself. When I could accept any work that came my way without worrying about childcare and being away from my baby. When I could get drunk and not have to worry about the logistics of ‘pumping and dumping’ or if I had enough breastmilk in the freezer. When I could sleep through the night and wake up each morning feeling refreshed. When I could book a spontaneous holiday!
It is possible to miss your old life and love your new life at the same time.
YouTube mums are the best
I resisted the ‘mummy bloggers’ for so long, thinking I wouldn’t enjoy that kind of brightly lit, happy happy happy mummy content. No, it wasn’t for me.
But when I was pregnant with Alba I started YouTubing videos about what to make in a hospital bag. I don’t even know why I was searching for this because I’d already done it twice before! But I got sucked into a whole world of mummy YouTubers and I realised I LOVED them. They gave me so much advice and so many ideas and also a lot of reassurance that my baby was just like every other baby in the world.
Here are some of my favourites:
Emily Norris – For mum organisation
The Michalaks – To prove you can be cool post-babies
Jordan Page – She has about 8,000 children and has some great tips and ideas
You won’t ‘enjoy every moment’
If I had £1 for every time someone has said, ‘Just enjoy every moment while they’re little….’ I’d have…well I’d probably have enough to pay my mortgage for a month.
And while you know every moment is precious and you’re lucky and your baby is adorable and blah blah blah, you won’t enjoy every moment. Not every moment is idyllic. There are some moments where you’ll have genuine discussions about whether you can afford a nanny. A full time, live-in nanny.
You’ll wish you took more photos
No matter how many photos or videos you take of your baby, you’ll wish you took more. You can’t have too many photos of your kids!
But it is a balancing act because sometimes you really do need to put your phone down and be present and enjoy playing with your baby without taking photos.
Organisation hacks are THE BEST
Since having a third baby I’ve become so organised and that’s simply because I have to be. If I’m not organised then we’d never get out the house in the morning (not that we can right now!)
I’ve watched so many mum organisation hacks on YouTube and they’ve actually changed my life! I’m not naturally an organised person and don’t come from an organised family so I really did have to learn all of this.
These days, I prep most of our meals and always have snacks and lunchboxes ready in the fridge for the kids. Everything in our house has a place (it’s not always in that place but it has one!) and we have a rough routine which we mostly stick to.
If you’re a bit of a scatty, disorganised person then I highly recommend watching some organisation hacks on YouTube!
Just because they do it now, doesn’t mean they’ll do it when they’re older
People warn you not to hold your baby too much because you’ll ‘create a rod for your own back’ but, in my experience, this is complete bollocks. Just because a baby likes to be held, it doesn’t mean you’ll still be holding them on their 18th birthday.
Some babies like to be held and if this makes your life easier then hold them! But some babies don’t like to be held and that’s OK too. George didn’t like to be held all the time so he was one of those babies who always slept in his own bed, never came in our bed and would happily sit and play on his own. Alba is the opposite and is almost always being held! But just because we hold her now, doesn’t mean she’ll still want to be held when she’s five!
It also works the other way round too. George always slept SO well and went to bed with no problem. He self soothed and stuck to a routine and was basically the perfect sleeper. And then when he was about four he stopped sleeping so well. He’s a really light sleeper, wakes up really early and will stay up late looking at comics and playing with his Lego. We’ve tried everything but we think this is just the way he is. So even if you get your baby into a perfect sleep habit, it doesn’t mean you’re teaching them to be a good sleeper for life.
Some days are boring
And finally, one I feel like you’re not meant to admit to, but some days with a newborn are just a bit boring. It’s wonderful when you have a boring day because it means nothing has gone wrong but sometimes the routine of feed, change, nap, play does get a bit dull!
And there you have it, some things I wish I’d known before I had my first baby.
If you have anything else to add to the list then please do share them!